Thursday, February 9, 2023

Not in my front yard: Residents in Carolina Beach push back against Clarendon multi-use path

Plans for a multi-use path on Clarendon Avenue faced resistance from residents at Tuesday’s council meeting (Port City Daily/File)

CAROLINA BEACH — Despite the common sentiment heard in Carolina Beach that residents and visitors alike are eager for new pedestrian and bicycle paths and trails, residents showed resistance to the proposed Clarendon multi-use path at the latest Town Council meeting.

On Tuesday, council held a public hearing to allow residents a chance to weigh in on the proposed trail that the town recently was awarded grant funding for. The path would provide connectivity for the Carolina Beach Lake Park, Mike Chappell Park, and the elementary school in the form of a 2,900-foot paved trail.

But instead of overwhelming support for the trail and interconnectivity, the proposed path faced backlash from well-prepared residents who live along the route.

Related: Clarendon Avenue multi-use path in the works, public hearing scheduled

The project has been on the minds of residents and town leaders for several years but only recently has the town been able to move forward with the plan.

For Amy Hooker-Kidd, a Clarendon resident and initial designs for the multi-use path are not what she, or her neighbors, would like to see. In fact, she was so passionate about the plan she presented Town Council with her own presentation highlighting concerns with the proposed path.

One of her first, and biggest concerns is the fact the path jumps across the street instead of staying on one side for its entirety.

“Unlike other multi-use paths, this one starts on the southside and then jumps to the north. A person going from the school to the lake or the greenway will have to cross the road three times in a mere five blocks,” she said.

While initial design renderings show a tree-lined path a few feet off of the street, she said that the proposed plan would require the cutting of several trees, be as wide as another car lane, and it would take away parking spaces.

“There will be no room for teacher overflow parking at the end of 4th Street, and notice, that these homeowners who have maintained the right-of-way like their own yards for 40 years are going to see half of the property in their front yards paved,” she said.

It is worth pointing out, however, regardless of property owners care for public right-of-ways, the town does have the right to use that property.

She also claims that according to the experts (National Association of City Transporation Officials & The Urban Bikeway Design Guide), a bike path would not be a good solution for a road like Clarendon. Instead, she said the best option would be making the route a ‘bike boulevard.’

What is a bike boulevard? Well, it is not a designated path, instead, it would simply consist of markings on the road and signage to give cyclists priority, she said.

A slide from a resident’s own slideshow asking the Town Council to scrap the Clarendon Mixed-Use Path

But the path is not just for bicycles, it would be a walking path as well as pedestrians a safe route from the town’s more popular destinations.

But Hooker-Kidd insists the pathway would be better somewhere else on the island where a bike path is needed. Her argument is the fact that Clarendon has limited traffic already, has several stop signs, and is a dead-end street. A multi-use path would not be recommended by experts for the type of road that Clarendon is, she said.

“By eliminating the Clarendon Multi-Use Path we can save these taxpayer dollars for a bike path project that makes common sense,” she said.

Other residents who live on Clarendon showed their support for Hooker-Kidd’s sentiment and claimed that they were unaware of the current plans.

Others said there are concerns with just how close the path would be located to current resident’s homes.

Council responds

For Councilman Steve Shuttleworth the fact that residents were unaware, or at least claimed to be unaware of the town’s plans for the path was surprising.

“I am sorry you didn’t know about this bike path for a number of years because we talked about it in 2011. I told Ms. Pierce that previous council approved this,” he said. “Amy (Hooker-Kid) we walked your property, we looked at the trees, we talked about going around them — this is not new stuff,” Shuttleworth said.

With that in mind, Shuttleworth said he was fine with letting a new group (incoming Town Council members and a new mayor) make the decision on the path.

When it came to Hooker-Kidd’s argument that because of the traffic volume the path is unwarranted, Shuttleworth said the trail was never meant to address traffic issues or volume.

“This wasn’t designed or built because of traffic volume, it was designed because it’s a key component in an overall plan,” he said.

Councilman JoDan Garza said he agreed with the residents who would be affected by the path and asked that the council table the discussion until a later date. And that is essentially what the Town Council decided to do, but since there was no action requested an official motion to table the discussion was not made (or necessary).

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